vrijdag 4 december 2020

Overview of 2020 Christmas 7" singles, part 2

Here is the second overview of 2020 7" singles (plus one early 2019 release that we hadn't spoken about earlier). It seems 2020 will be another year with quite some cool Christmas 7"'s!

Khruangbin: Christmas Time Is Here
(Night Time Stories / LateNightTales / Dead Oceans, ALN75001X / DOC184, US / UK & Europe, 2020, 45 rpm, translucent red vinyl, small hole)

Two years ago, Khruangbin’s version of the Vince Guaraldi classic ‘Christmas Time Is Here’ was the best sold Christmas 7” of the year, with no other 7” coming close. Since then, the Houston, Texas psychedelic rock trio has only become more popular. The single also met with good reviews. So only two years after the original release, the single is being re-released by the three labels involved, Night Time Stories, LateNightTales and Dead Oceans. Again, there will be a separate release for the North American market and for the European market, so I expect this single might again hit the number one spot of most popular Christmas 7” of the year. We will see if there are other new releases that might challenge this position. The two songs on the single are the same as two years ago, two versions of ‘Christmas Time Is Here’, the original and the ‘Version Mary’ on the B-side, but there are also some differences. Two years ago the single came on green vinyl, now it comes on red vinyl. And the sleeve artwork is adapted to 2020 – with the band members standing six feet apart and wearing mouthmasks! So probably the most 2020 Christmas 7” sleeve you will find this year.

Buy: Khruangbin Bandcamp

The original 2018 video (without mouthmasks):

The video for the slighty more psychedelic Version Mary:

Amy Winehouse: 12X7 including I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
(Island / Republic, 0727248 / 3503389, UK & Europe / USA, 2020, box set with 12 7” singles on black vinyl, including one one-sided single with an etched back, small hole)

On November 20, a box set was released with 12 singles of Amy Winehouse, many of those for the first time as a 7”. That was already something to get excited about – for the first time classics like ‘Stronger Than Me’ and ‘Rehab’ on a 7”! But learning that the box set also contained a Christmas single… that was definitely a reason to get excited! With the two albums Amy Winehouse released during her life, 2003’s ‘Frank’ and especially 2006’s ‘Back To Black’ she became a star, even more so when she supplied vocals to ‘Valerie’, a song on her producer Mark Ronson’s solo album. She was able to give her vocals the same emotional impact as only the biggest female singers of the 20th century had been able to do (Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin). Unfortunately, with stardom also came addiction, turbulent relationships and general turmoil, which ended abruptly when Amy Winehouse sadly joined the club of 27 in 2011. Her life has been documented a few years ago in the film ‘Amy’, and her music will make her live on in the hearts of many.
Amy never recorded a Christmas album, although I wouldn’t have been surprised that she would have done so eventually, had she made it through all the hardships and survived. Amy also never did a studio recording of a Christmas song, but did sing a Christmas song on a live show at least once. At the end of 2004, the BBC Radio 2 broadcasted a show that was recorded live at the Union Chappel, in Islington, London, ‘The Gospel According To Christmas’. This was a specially recorded Christmas Day concert hosted by Jamelia (a English singer, songwriter and television presenter who also had been part of Band Aid 20 that year), that featured the London Community Gospel Choir and special guest singing Christmas carols and festive favourites. And one of those special guests was Amy Winehouse. She did a very soulful version of ‘I Saw Mommy Santa Claus’. Amy probably also thought it quite funny that she was doing this song, basically a children’s song, as at the end of the song, she giggles. It’s this version that now has found a home on the 12th single in the box, a one-side single with snowflakes etched on the B-side. Really great to now be a able to hear this classic performance on vinyl. This box, including the single, would make a great Christmas present for everybody who loves music and 7”’s! It is available in both Europe (on Island) and the US (on Republic).

Video including introduction by Jamelia (the single has only the song):

The Volcanics: Christmas Wassailing With The Volcanics
(Hi-Tide Recordings, HT-063, USA, 2020, 45 rpm, green vinyl)

The Volcanics are a surf band from San Gabriel Valley in South California, already around from 2001 on, who so far recorded for Double Crown and Hi-Tide, two labels specializing in surf music. On their 4-song EP ‘Christmas Wassailing With The Volcanics’, the trio take three Christmas traditionals and one a little bit more recent classic, drench the songs in reveber and rebuilt them into instrumental surf rock songs, much in the same way like The Ventures did 60 years before them, taking the freedom to put in small elements of other popular songs. Like in ‘Tidings Of Comfort And Joy’, an instrumental version of ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’. The last song is a surf version of ‘Walking Through The Air’, the famous theme song from the animated film ‘The Snowman’. The first 100 copies came with a Christmas card signed by the band and a sticker. 500 copies were made, and if you order the record, you can also add a 7” adapter. That seems to be a new trend, as this is already the second Christmas 45 that, optionally, comes with an 7” adapter.

Buy and listen on Bandcamp:

Vince Guaraldi Trio: Christmas Time Is Here
(Craft Recordings, CR01963, USA, 2020, 45 rpm, translucent green vinyl, small hole)

It seems that with every new Christmas, Vince Guaraldi’s ‘Christmas Time Is Here’ is getting more popular. Two years ago, we had Khruangbin and Lucius covering the song and putting it out on a 7” single, last year Owel did so, and released it on a very limited lathe 7”, while the original was being re-released on a 3” single and this year Khruangbin’s single gets a re-release and the original is finally released on a 7” single, as part of Record Day Black Friday. According to the hype sticker on the plastic sleeve, it’s the first time ‘Christmas Time Is Here’ is released on a 7”, but that is only partly true. The song was never commercially released as a single, but Fantasy did release a promotional 7” of the song in 1965, the year the album was also released. That one is hard to find, so this 7” is more than welcome. It comes in a very sweet looking picture sleeve, with the Peanuts singing in the snow before a Christmas tree, with stars shining down on them. The B-side has a alternative vocal take, that’s only one-and-a-half minute long. 2500 copies are pressed, so it won’t be hard to track down this 7” or let your favorite local record shop order it for you.

Listen on Youtube:

And here is also the B-side:

Elvis Presley: I’ll Be Home For Christmas
(Memphis Mansion, MMEP003-1120, Denmark, 2020, red vinyl, 45 rpm, small hole)

None are so faithful as fans of Elvis. Some of Elvis’ fans in Denmark even have their own Elvis Museum, Memphis Mansion, in a town called Randers. It looks like a large country house. It’s maybe not Graceland, but it’s a kind of house I can imagine Elvis could have lived in, had he been born in Denmark instead of the USA. Memphis Mansion also have their own label, and that label has released a 4-song EP for Christmas, with four of Elvis’ better known Christmas songs. Now have the songs of Elvis’ classic 1957 Christmas album already been repackaged many times, but what makes this EP interesting, is that most of the versions on this EP are alternative versions. ‘White Christmas’ and ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ have a more jazzy arrangements and sounds as if taken from a radio broadcast. Also included are ‘Santa Claus Is Back In Town’ and ‘Blue Christmas’. There is no information on the EP about when the songs have been recorded, unfortunately. The label packaged the red vinyl EP in a festive looking glossy gatefold sleeve. Included is an insert with ‘Christmas elves’ pictured (taken from Elvis’ second, 1971, Christmas album), that you can cut out, and decorate your Christmas tree with. My copy came with a A3 poster and a hand signed card. 300 copies are pressed, that are sold out from the Memphis Mansion webshop, but some other Elvis’ online shops may still have copies.

Suspense Heroes Syndicate / Skarface : Christmas Fight Diary
(Laketown Records / Sunny Bastards, LTR-017, 2020, Germany, snowy ice/babyblue, red and white/black vinyl, 33 prm, small hole)

A split EP featuring two bands who take equal inspiration from ska and punk/oi, the somewhat weird but very original named Suspense Heroes Syndicate from Slovenia and Skarface from Paris, France, who are already around for almost 30 years. Although both bands play the same style, one could say that SHS puts ska in their punk and Skarface puts punk in their ska. The EP comes packed in a sleeve with cartoon artwork, featuring two rough looking guys dressed in Santa suits in a boxing ring, with a charming lady, the referee, who is also dressed in a Santa suit, in between, and both guys, now looking less rough but also less in shape, on the back, with the lady again in between, who declares both as winners. Now, that’s the spirit of Christmas! Also no need for us to choose a winner, as both bands do a fine job in doing skapunk version of Christmas classics. SHS goes for English (with a funny accent), and do a medley of the Ramones’ ‘Merry Christmas, I Don’t Want To Fight’ and Jose Feliciano’s ‘Feliz Navidad’ (for sure, the first time that these two songs are mixed, but it works) and a cover of ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’, while Skarface stay close to their roots with their versions of the two probably most popular French Christmas songs, ‘Petit Papa Noël’ and ‘La Fille De Père Noël’. 300 copies are pressed, 100 on black, 100 on ice/snow and 100 on babyblue/red/white vinyl.


Buy: Laketown Records

Cannibal Mosquitos: Merry Christmas
(Savage Cannibalism Records, SC03, France, 2019, black vinyl, 33 rpm, large hole)

This EP came already out early 2019, so in fact is alate arrival from Christmas 2018. Cannibal Mosquitos are a French trio, based in Romans Sur Isère, in the south east of France, whose slogan is ‘Let’s Surf! Let’s Twist!’. Indeed, the band take their inspiration from the early 1960s, when surf music and the twist were the big thing. Their sound is surf, but with a bit more rock & roll influences than many other surf bands, and yes, I think you can indeed dance the twist on the four songs on their Christmas EP. The song are, as usual with surf bands, instrumental, apart from some samples, that add to the Christmas atmosphere of the EP. Two originals (I think) on the A-side, and surf rock variations on ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Jingle Bells’ on the B-side, that add some additional music to those much covered songs. Despite the not so cheery cover art (a coffin with RIP Santa on it on the front and some quite weird photos on the back), the music itself is well suited for a Christmas party.

Buy: Bandcamp


Hudson Taylor: How I Know It’s Christmas
(Rubyworks, RWXEP386, Ireland, 2020, black vinyl, 45 rpm, small hole)

In 2019, the most popular new Christmas song in Ireland was ‘How I Know It’s Christmas’, by the brothers Alfie and Harry Hudson-Taylor, better known as Hudson Taylor. It was only beaten by five well-known Christmas classics as far as radio plays went, and it was the most-Shazamed song in Ireland on Christmas Day. So label Rubyworks decided to re-release the single at the end of the year that proved the most succesful year for the two brothers so far, with their second full length album, ‘Loving Everywhere I Go’, hitting the number one spot in the Irish album charts. To the digital release, two new versions were added, a RTE Concert Orchestra version and a acoustic piano version, and the song was released on a 7". ‘How I Know It’s Christmas’ , written by Alfie Hudson-Taylor, starts out as a quiet piano ballad (bringing Coldplay to mind), but gets more and more festive, when more instruments and voices join in, and Alfie’s vocals sound more excited, as he sums up what makes it Christmas for him – basically, being with all his friends and family. This sounds like a song that will stay on the Irish Christmas radio playlists for a long time, and might crossover to other countries too. The 7”, that came with a Christmas card, signed by Alfie and Harry, is already sold out, so it seems, as it isn’t listed on the official webshop of the band anymore.


The close this overview - the three 2020 Snowflakes Christmas Singles (by Jetstream Pony, Silent Winter and The Detox Twins) are still available on the Snowflakes Big Cartel site here. Both Jetstream Pony and The Detox Twins are close to being sold out, so if you want to get a complete set, this is the moment to do so! And pick up some older releases, if you don't have those yet!

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